Plastic heart surgery is in short supply in Japan
By KENYON ARAJUKA and SHIRLEY CLARKEN Reuters March 16, 2020 12:08:55The number of people undergoing heart surgery in Japan fell for the first time in more than a decade, data showed on Wednesday, reflecting the country’s slow recovery from a pandemic.
Japanese hospitals and doctors are also struggling to keep up with the influx of patients after the country was forced to close hospitals in the northern and southern provinces of Hokkaido, Honshu, Okinawa and the island of Kyushu due to a shortage of specialists.
Doctors in the southern provinces were reluctant to perform heart surgery due to safety concerns and fears of infection, while in the north, the shortage of heart surgeons and hospital beds means the surgeries have become increasingly risky.
There were 7,000 heart surgeries performed in Japan in the first three months of 2020, down from 12,000 in the same period a year earlier, the Japan Society of Cardiology said in a report.
The decline in heart surgery may be a result of a new policy in Japan, which allows patients to choose a surgeon who has the right experience and experience level.
The government in December eased the requirement to obtain a heart surgery license, which had been mandatory for more than two decades.
It also expanded the list of doctors who can perform heart surgeries, easing the burden on hospitals.
But doctors and hospitals are still reluctant to operate because of safety concerns, and are still struggling to find qualified heart surgeons.
Japan’s Health Minister Toshimitsu Motegi told reporters that there was no need for new restrictions as the number of heart surgery procedures had fallen to the lowest level since at least 1990.
“The heart surgery surgery is one of the most popular forms of medical treatment and it is very difficult to maintain it in Japan due to the shortage,” he said.
The heart surgeries were being performed on more than 4 million patients, down 10 percent from the same time last year, and were expected to remain in decline in 2020.
Health officials say the shortage has forced hospitals to cut back on hospital beds and make the procedures more difficult.